20:33 PM

Pitt SOAR Named Finalist in NASA Sponsored Innovation Challenge

The Pitt Society of Astronautics and Rocketry (SOAR), comprised of several MEMS undergraduates, has been named a finalist in NASA’s 2021 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) Special Edition: Moon to Mars Ice & Prospecting Challenge.

In 2020, NASA confirmed water on the sunlit surface of the Moon and ice at its poles, in addition to extensive subsurface water-ice deposits at mid to high latitudes on Mars. The Moon to Mars Ice & Prospecting Challenge invites universities to compete to develop technologies capable of extracting water from these sources.

This challenge is a part of a larger suite of competitions under The Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkages (RASC-AL), which sponsors university engineering design challenges that “help inform NASA’s approaches for future human space exploration and prompt collegiate students to investigate, plan, and analyze space exploration design at differing states of development” (nasa.gov).

Periodically, RASC-AL calls for a special edition challenge, as was the case this year, to elicit students’ fresh perspective on developing concepts that may provide solutions to specific design problems and challenges currently facing human space exploration (specialedition.rascal.nianet.org).

SOAR’s project is titled Vaporizer of Underground Liquid for Consumption by Astronaut coloNists (VULCAN) and the team received a $5000 stipend to build their system when they were identified as semi-finalists. As finalists, they will receive an additional $10,000 to further develop their system and use on expenses such as hardware development, materials, testing equipment, hardware, software, and travel.

On a yet-to-be-determined date this summer, the team will travel to the NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) in Hampton, VA to test their prototype against the other university finalists in a multi-day competition. The teams will compete to extract the most water from an “analog environment simulating a slice of a combined lunar and Martian surface, while simultaneously using system telemetry to distinguish between overburden layers and create a digital core of the various layers” (specialedition.rascal.nianet.org). Teams will also present their work in a technical poster session and with a technical paper.

MEMS professor Matt Barry is the Faculty Mentor of SOAR and Mars Ice. Barry effused that he is "…continually amazed by what the students within SOAR and Mars Ice Challenge teams accomplish. Having teams in their infancy, such as these, continually and successfully competing in NASA competitions is a remarkable feat, and a true testament of the students' abilities, their commitment to the team and missions, and their perseverance to overcome any and all barriers in their way. These amazing students not only represent themselves well, but the University as a whole, and I could not be more proud of them."

The MEMS students on this team, all ME undergraduates, include; Cole Bowman, Andrew Horton, Benjamin Moyer, Jack Cornell, Justin Olah, Marissa DeFallo, Sam Hunn, Ronald Musto, and Elliot Kerachsy. Additional Swanson School students include Sushmit Acharya (EE), Caira Borchers (EE), Elizabeth Mountz (BioE), and Zachary Colimon (CoE).

We wish SOAR the best of luck at finals this summer!


Contact: Meagan Lenze